Iveagh Markets, Francis Street, Dublin
If I'm ever to find my fifteen minutes of fame, it will be on CCTV. Those cameras strategically planted in places most likely to attract criminal activity are there for a practical purpose. But they also happen to hone in on the grim alleys and lonesome laneways, the boarded-up houses and abandoned factories that attract a lover of urban dereliction such as myself. If a coil of barbed wire catches my eye, I will stop, take out my camera, and snap a picture. A security camera, detecting the flash, snaps right back at me. From time to time I do wonder about the sad warehouse where all this dull footage is stored, the security equivalent of those pictures you might have of an uncle or a relative that's him taking a picture of you taking a picture of him. Nevertheless, when they do unearth these wasted rolls of film, I'm sure to be a speck in more than one.
Dublin is a city of beautiful ruins. Now that the docklands, once my favorite place for that ends-of-the-earth post-industrial lonesomeness, have gotten the full Celtic Tiger makeover -- that is to say they have been overdeveloped, overdesigned, and made so very, very shiny -- I have had to go in search of other places to walk, wander, and wonder.
Empty lots, sparsely populated lanes, coil after coil of please-feck-off barbed wire -- don't even get me started on the charms of Dublin 8. I can wander for hours on foot through its maze of decidedly un-scenic streets, or swirl figure-8s on a borrowed bicycle. The only thing I can't stomach about the place is the smell of the nearby brewery. Taking in the rank stink of roasting hops from the Guinness Storehouse has as much in common with the smooth satisfaction of drinking a pint of the same stuff as Gary, Indiana has in common with, say, Gary Cooper. There's no comparison, really. But fortunately, there is no nostalgic Smell-O-Vision iPhone app, at least not yet, and daylight in a forgotten corner of town like this provides all sorts of delicious photo ops.
The Iveagh Markets were once fully operational and have since have been left to languish in a corner of The Liberties. It's a beautiful early Edwardian structure, all brick and stone on the outside and a cathedral of cast-iron inside, that once was a bustling center of industry and now is a haven for crushed Bulmer's cans and wayward Tayto crisps bags. While I won't hail this as progress, there is a certain pleasure to be had in pondering the what-was and the what-may-be of a place like this. Possibility is all the more exciting because you seem to be the only one on earth who notices this thing behind a heap of rubble on the outskirts of town. To use one of my favorite bits of non-native phraseology, people simply can't be arsed.
Plans to convert the Iveagh Markets into a hotel were bandied about in the early nineties. The plan was approved by the City Council, then abandoned, for reasons that remain unclear. But I wouldn't mind seeing the markets brought back to their original function, especially when I think of the success of the St. George's Market in Belfast, which is my go-to place for sinfully good crepes and the best place to see a band of merry white-haired Ulstermen playing rambunctious Dixieland jazz on a Saturday afternoon. Very well, I might add.
But until the Iveagh Markets get their much-deserved makeover, I'm happy to go on admiring its grim coils of barbed wire, grinning as I snap away, securing my place in the annals of CCTV history.